The simple word “strong” has taken on a particular meaning across the past decade, becoming a cultural shorthand in times of adversity—Vermont Strong as our home state recovered from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, Boston Strong in the wake of the 2013 marathon bombing. In that same vein, UVM Strong speaks to what we are experiencing as the University of Vermont community in the midst of a world-altering pandemic and how we have responded. It defines strength, of course—the particular strength of resilience—but more. It also speaks to choosing paths other than despair when faced with difficulty—paths of action, invention, and unity.
This issue of Vermont Quarterly shares many stories of such strength during the Covid-19 pandemic. You will read about how the expertise and innovation of faculty and staff is addressing the crisis; how alumni are working daily as healthcare workers on the front lines of hospitals and in leadership roles nationwide; and how students are contributing their time, energy, and imagination to the many needs at hand. The lens of these challenging times heightens the focus on our mission as a land grant university, bringing our assets to bear upon the community.
As I write in early June, we move forward in a time of continuing uncertainty and rapid change. Across the University of Vermont, and across much of American higher education, we prepare in full hope and anticipation that we will be in session on campus as academic year 2020-21 opens. As we go forward, the members of the UVMStrong—Fall 2020 Advisory Committee are playing a critical role in developing strategies and protocols for a safe return to on-campus operations. They have been guided by their focus on the health and safety of the entire university and surrounding communities, and the ongoing education and preparation of our students. They also are drawing heavily on the expertise of our faculty in public health and medicine, and interface with the Vermont Department of Health, Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont Legislature, and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.
This work will create a robust framework of options that will enable us to meet multiple evolving scenarios and needs. The committee’s first report is expected June 15, as this issue goes to press. As our plans for fall are further defined, we will share them promptly and widely via email, our homepage, and social media.
I am confident that we will emerge from the public health and economic challenges of the pandemic as a strong institution, ever-resilient, as the University of Vermont has been since 1791. Charting our way forward, we will be guided by a sharp focus on our strengths, outlined in the “Amplifying Our Impact” strategic imperatives endorsed by the UVM Board of Trustees in May. The framework is online and shared in this issue. I encourage you to read it and learn more about our commitment to ensuring student success, investing in areas of distinctive research strength, and fulfilling our land grant mission.
My best wishes go out for the health and well-being of our entire UVM extended family. And, again, I extend sincere congratulations to the Class of 2020. I look forward to joining you all one day soon as we gather together on campus for a true University of Vermont Commencement.
Suresh V. Garimella
For the latest updates on plans for academic year 2020-2021: see uvm.edu, emails from the university, and our social media channels.